Often when looking at young sportspeople coming through the ranks, the focus is on high profile sports such as cricket and the football codes. But there are other up-and-coming champions in sport that don’t gain as much public attention, despite their skill, athleticism, discipline and commitment. Canberra has many young emerging champions who fit this profile.
This is why I am devoting this column to a number of young athletes in the sports of taekwondo, baseball and touch football.
Giuliana Masiello and Avalon Frezz
Fourteen-year-old Giuliana Masiello hasn’t been beaten in Australia for some time in the sport of taekwondo. According to the head coach of the ACT Taekwondo Club’s high-performance program, Danny Crkvencic, she is capable of doing anything in the sport.
Such is the talent of Giuliana, and fellow Canberra competitor, 13-year-old Avalon Frezza, that they are heading to the Taekwondo Cadet World Titles in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in August.
For Giuliana, it will be the second time she has been selected to compete at the Cadet World Championships, while it will the first for Avalon. Danny says it is an important step for athletes with as much potential as Giuliana and Avalon; “This is the pathway for future Olympians. They need to travel overseas for several years so that they understand what is required.”
In the lead up to the World Titles, there is an overseas camp where Giuliana and Avalon will train against Olympians. This experience will help provide a foundation for these talented young athletes.
Stuart Tharle, Cooper Morgan and Trent Buchanan
In the sport of baseball, Canberra is incredibly productive when it comes to developing players capable of performing on the world stage. This year, seven ACT baseballers were picked up by the US college system, while the next wave is already in motion.
Stuart Tharle, Trent Buchanan and Cooper Morgan are part of that next wave. Baseball Canberra High-Performance Manager, Kyle Perkins, is doing a great job in preparing young players for their next step. He says, “They are ready to go into the US College system with aspirations to go even further.”
Trent and Cooper won selection in the 12-man Australian Schoolboys Baseball team after the ACT finished third behind NSW and Victoria at the Australian Schools 18 and under titles in Geelong this year. Both are likely to head to the US in 2020. Cooper and Stuart Tharle have also just returned from Florida where they took part in the Australian Prospect Program.
For Kyle Perkins, who played in the US minor leagues and the Canberra Cavalry during his playing days, the high graduation rate is incredibly satisfying. “It’s fantastic for me. It shows that we are on the right path. We are smaller when compared to other states in their high-performance programs, but there is more personalised coaching.”
Rebecca Beath played a number of sports in primary school, but once she started playing touch football, there has been little time or passion for any other sport.
In an unusual situation, Bec Beath and two fellow Canberra players, Kasey Dragisic and Elise Wilson, play for the Sydney Roosters in the eight-team NRL Touch Premiership, as the Raiders don’t field a side.
It is the same in the men’s, with Canberra’s Rob McCarthy and Jamie Hawke playing in the Roosters men’s team. With NRL clubs sponsoring teams in the Touch Premiership and the Raiders not fielding a side, the Roosters are deemed to be the destination team for players drawn from beyond the existing sides’ domains.
But the idea of Canberra having its own team would be ideal for these young players. Bec Beath, who is captain of the women’s Sydney Roosters team, remains optimistic – “Hopefully, down the track, we can get a Canberra Raiders team in the competition.” And the prospects are looking good for this to happen in the future. “It’s definitely a growing sport in Canberra, especially on the social side,” says Bec.
The hope is, of course, that young players stay in their chosen sport to ensure we have that next generation of stars coming through. They, in turn, will help inspire those who follow.
These up-and-coming young Canberra champions are setting a foundation to make this happen.